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Businesses seek Kishida’s support for tech, supply chain partnership

Korean industries upbeat on partnership in chip, materials sectors

By Jo He-rim

Published : May 8, 2023 - 16:15

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Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a closed-door meeting with heads of South Korea's six major business lobby groups in Seoul on Monday. (KCCI) Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida attends a closed-door meeting with heads of South Korea's six major business lobby groups in Seoul on Monday. (KCCI)

South Korea's business lobby groups asked Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to support their budding efforts to boost cooperation with Japan, especially in the fields of advanced technology and resource development in third countries, in a closed-door meeting in Seoul on Monday.

Meeting with the chiefs of Korea's six major business lobby groups on the second day of his two-day trip, Kishida expressed hopes for businesses to lead the effort to achieve the shared goal of bolstering industrial ties between Korea and Japan.

The six representatives that took part in the meeting, which was hosted by the Japanese Embassy in Seoul, are Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry's Chairman Chey Tae-won, who is also the chairman of SK Group; Federation of Korean Industries acting Chairman Kim Byong-joon; Korea Enterprises Federation Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik; Korea International Trade Association Chairman Koo Ja-yeol; Korea Federation of SMEs Chairman Kim Ki-moon; and Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea Chairman Choi Jin-shik.

Kim Yoon, the chairman of Samyang Holdings and head of the Korea-Japan Economic Association, also joined the conference.

During the meeting, Chey of KCCI noted the importance of the bilateral ties, and explained the chamber is leading talks with companies of the two countries for collaboration in the fields of semiconductor, battery, mobility, and energy, among others.

Chey asked for Kishida's support and for the prime minister to encourage Japanese companies to reach out to Korea.

"The prime minister told us many good things. He asked for companies of both countries to act first to lead the economic cooperation," Chey told reporters after the meeting.

While the discussion came short of addressing details over bilateral cooperation in the semiconductor sector, participants discussed the need to come up with joint measures to respond to the global supply chain disruption, Chey said.

"We did not go over details (on topics regarding chips and batteries), but talked broadly about economic pressures and the supply chain," Chey added.

From top left: Korea International Trade Association Chairman Koo Ja-yeol; Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Chey Tae-won, who is also the chairman of SK Group; and Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea Chairman Choi Jin-shik. From bottom left: Korea Federation of SMEs Chairman Kim Ki-moon; Korea Enterprises Federation Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik; and Federation of Korean Industries Acting Chairman Kim Byong-joon. (Yonhap) From top left: Korea International Trade Association Chairman Koo Ja-yeol; Korea Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Chey Tae-won, who is also the chairman of SK Group; and Federation of Middle Market Enterprises of Korea Chairman Choi Jin-shik. From bottom left: Korea Federation of SMEs Chairman Kim Ki-moon; Korea Enterprises Federation Chairman Sohn Kyung-shik; and Federation of Korean Industries Acting Chairman Kim Byong-joon. (Yonhap)

Kim of the FKI said they discussed economic cooperation and pursuing joint projects to tap into third markets.

"We agreed the two countries should work together to explore business opportunities in third countries, especially in the fields of resources and energy," Kim said.

They also went over the progress of two future partnership funds that would be set up by the countries' two biggest business groups, the FKI and the Japan Business Federation, commonly known as Keidanren.

"I asked for Kishida's support on the future partnership fund. We are talking with Keidanren, and I believe the operation committee will be established within a couple of days," Kim added.

The two business groups had announced the initiative on the occasion of the summit between Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Kishida in Tokyo in March.

Korea's small- and medium-sized enterprises in the material, parts and equipment sector wish for smooth trade with their Japanese counterparts, the Korea Federation of SMEs chairman said.

"Japan stands ahead in original technology, and there will be a lot of benefits for both sides when we (SMEs) take the parts and materials produced by Japan to manufacture products for conglomerates that are then exported," the federation's Kim Ki-moon added.

Monday's meeting is a follow-up to a Korea-Japan business roundtable hosted by the FKI in March, on the sidelines of the Yoon-Kishida Tokyo summit.

Lobby groups released statements welcoming the agreements Yoon and Kishida made during their summit in Seoul on Sunday. At the summit, Kishida confirmed that the Japanese government was in the process of reinstating Korea to its “white list” of trusted trading partners which would also confer preferential export treatment.

The two leaders agreed to make joint efforts to promote cooperation in industries including semiconductors, materials, parts and equipment. They will also support joint research opportunities in advanced technology sectors including space, quantum technology, artificial intelligence and biopharmaceuticals.

"Japan's decision to put Korea back onto its list of white list nations will bring a great synergy for the industry of the two countries," KCCI said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the latest summit will provide opportunities for collaboration.

The KCCI also mentioned that it has launched a Korea-Japan economic cooperation study group, gathering companies from the two countries to explore business opportunities together.

The Korea Federation of SMEs said the latest Korea-Japan summit will push for the countries to come up with joint measures "to handle escalating competition for global hegemony," and called for detailed action plans.

Separately, Kishida ended his two-day visit Monday with a meeting with Rep. Chung Jin-suk, the head of the Korea-Japan Parliamentarians' Union, and Yun Ho-jung of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, before returning to Japan.